Cycling is like life. Cycling with no goal is meaningless. What meaning is there cycling in circles? Or living aimlessly? Meaning comes from direction and destination. Join me in my life's journey on a mountain bike :)

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Laws of cycling irony

Jun distance: 201 km

Woodlands, 50 km. When I awake, the wind blusters and rain pelts down. I head back to sleep. When I open my eyes again, the sun beats down. As I head out the door, there's a feathery drizzle over here. But over there in the distance, I see blue sky. It's safe to ride - weather-wise.

It's dangerous to ride traffic-wise. At a X-junction, a car from the opposite direction turns right across my downhill path. The driver might as well have stopped and opened his door to let me in. I brake and yell. At a T-junction, a driver slips his car out from the side road in slow motion. That's driving dangerously cautiously. I brake and yell. At another X-junction, another driver does the same as the other drivers: when a cyclist is with a red bicycle and red jersey, the light is no longer green in the cyclist's favour, but red. As I go down another hill, a car meanders in front of me across three lanes to turn right. I'm so astounded, the sight takes my breath away.

Here are my "laws of cycling irony". #1: when traffic going in cycling direction is light, braking is heavy. Conversely, if traffic is heavy, braking is light. If vehicles (or better yet, a big truck) is beside cyclist, would drivers have pulled the stunts they did? Probably not. If they did, it wouldn't be cyclist in car. It would be car in truck. #2: when traffic is heavy and pollution is high, cyclist breathing is easier as no yelling of warnings are needed. The slipstream is akin to drafting too, hence less effort expended. #3: it is safer to ride in heavy traffic (heading in cycling direction); even if drivers coming from the other way don't see / ignore cyclist, traffic in cycling direction would plough into errant vehicle before cyclist does, push errant vehicle forward and give hapless cyclist more braking distance.

I've read and heard warnings about Vietnam traffic. I wonder if it's worse than Singapore drivers. Four near misses in 50 km is awesomely awful. Well, I'll find out for myself at year's end.


tei said...

First of all, I've been following your blog for a while and I love it -- it is just so fresh and original.

I've not been bicycling in Vietnam but in Singapore yes (I am not Singaporean, though), and based on my observations of the traffic in these two countries I can definitely state some major differences:

First, in Vietnam, there are a lot more motorbikes and scooters than cars on the road, and thus the speeds are lower.

Secondly the drivers in Vietnam are super alert --- they pay attention to what's going on around them and they also signal others their intentions (if they are going to turn, or stop or something) Unfortunately, this is not the case in Singapore.

BTW, where in Vietnam are you going to?

I also have another question. You've been in Borneo and some other neighboring areas. How do you transport your bicycle to those places that you can't take bumboat?

Horseman said...

hi Tei, glad you like the blog. Sometimes I don't feel like cycling then I think, what if a regular reader visits and has nothing to read. So I ride then I write :p

Thanks for your perspective about Vietnam traffic. It helps boost confidence. I would like to fly to the middle of Vietnam (Danang) then ride north, then U-turn back hopefully taking another route south.

When I travel by air, I fly 'economy' while my bicycle flies "cargo" in a bicycle box.

tei said...

I was in DaNang a month ago :) Not riding though. Not too intersting place, but Hoi An nearby is lovely.

I've only flown once out of Singapore with bikes (to New Zealand) and it was a major hassle on the airport, since the staff really didn't know what to do with us and our boxes. We also incurred huge fees for extra weight (which conflicted with the information we had acquired from the airline website)

Horseman said...

At Danang, I hope to see China Beach and perhaps Monkey Mountain.

Re air travel, was the hassle at NZ airport in Singapore? I've not had trouble at Changi Airport. Anyway, my bike box has so far been below 20kg so I've not had to pay extra except for a certain budget airline but I knew that in advance.

Packing a bike is a hassle, so much so I thought of getting a folding bike but ... nah.

tei said...

Yeah, the hassle was in Singapore. There was no way we could fit all our panniers and camping equipment within 20kg each. The problem was that the staff at the check-in did not know whether they should charge us by weight or extra pieces or both. Anyway, when coming back, they charged for the number of pieces which cost us much less.

Of course, there was another hassle in NZ because of their bio-hazard screening. We had to open all our boxes to show that are bikes are clean. They also opened our tent. Luckily, we had cleaned it thoroughly after our previous bicycle trip to Iceland :)

Horseman said...

Wow you're a hard core, heavy duty cyclo-tourist! Cycling in Iceland indeed!

The biggest problems I've had is trying to get a taxi to stop to put my bicycle box in, and airport customs officials who somehow find it hard to believe that my scratched bicycle is not new, not for import and not dutiable :p

tei said...

We just recently found about these maxi taxis that are quite willing to take bike boxes, but you have to order them beforehand, I think.

We love to go riding in Desaru area in Malaysia, but in order to get there we have to ride from the west side of the island through the city to get to Changi ferry terminals. Riding the East Coast park is such a nightmare.

Oh by the way, you are probably the right person to tell me, why Singaporeans have their bicycle seat so low that it is almost impossible for them to balance? And they are not only wobbly but seem to intentionally zig-zag across the path. So, you never know which way they are going to turn next, or if they are planning to stop or just fall. Of course, those guys and gals on roads are quite different (with the exception of workers that are riding on roads to the wrong direction!)

Horseman said...

hi, there used to be "London" cabs but they seem to have disappeared. And yes, maxi taxis work. What also works are the Toyota Crown taxis; the backseat fits 1 bike box. so if you travel alone, that'll do.

yes, East Coast Park is bad. I generally avoid it but if i have to pass thru the area, i take my chances on the road with the traffic rather than in the park itself.

regarding bicycle seats, are you referring to those in the park? if so, there're several reasons: a. the cyclists are newbies, they don't know about adjusting seats. b. the bikes are rented, may or may not have quick releases and so may be difficult to adjust even if cyclists think about adjusting them. c. the wobbling is less about seat height than ability to ride; the users want to keep the seat low so they can stick their feet out to prevent falls.

tei said...

By the way, do you have one of those polycarbonate or whatever bike boxes or do you use the cardboard ones available from any bike shop?

If former, where do you fit your other stuff?

Horseman said...

i use cardboard bike boxes. sometimes i protect the critical bicycle parts with styrofoam / pieces of cardboard.

i hand carry most of my stuff up the plane. that's because i travel without tent, sleeping bag, stove, pots ... :p